Between 1790 and 1830 the population
of Georgia increased six-fold. The western push
of the settlers created a problem. Georgians
continued to take Native American lands and
force them into the frontier. By 1825 the Lower
Creek had been completely removed from the state
under provisions of the Treaty of Indian Springs.
By 1827 the Creek were gone.
Cherokee had long called western
Georgia home. The Cherokee Nation continued
in their enchanted land until 1828. It was then
that the rumored gold, for which De Soto had
relentlessly searched, was discovered in the
North Georgia mountains.
The Cherokees in 1828 were not
nomadic savages. In fact, they had assimilated
many European-style customs, including the wearing
of gowns by Cherokee women. They built roads,
schools and churches, had a system of representational
government, and were farmers and cattle ranchers.
A Cherokee alphabet, the “Talking Leaves” was
perfected by Sequoyah.
In 1830 the Congress of the United
States passed the “Indian Removal Act.” Although
many Americans were against the act, most notably
Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett, it passed
anyway. President Jackson quickly signed the
bill into law. The Cherokees attempted to fight
removal legally by challenging the removal laws
in the Supreme Court and by establishing an
independent Cherokee Nation. At first the court
seemed to rule against the Indians. In Cherokee
Nation v. Georgia, the Court refused to hear
a case extending Georgia’s laws on the Cherokee
because they did not represent a sovereign nation.
In 1832, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor
of the Cherokee on the same issue in Worcester
v. Georgia. In this case Chief Justice John
Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was
sovereign, making the removal laws invalid.
The Cherokee would have to agree to removal
in a treaty. The treaty then would have to be
ratified by the Senate.
The Treaty of New Echota, signed
by Ridge and members of the Treaty Party in
1835, gave Jackson the legal document he needed
to remove the First Americans. Ratification
of the treaty by the United States Senate sealed
the fate of the Cherokee. Among the few who
spoke out against the ratification were Daniel
Webster and Henry Clay, but it passed by a single
vote. In 1838 the United States began the removal
to Oklahoma, fulfilling a promise the government
made to Georgia in 1802. Ordered to move on
the Cherokee, General John Wool resigned his
command in protest, delaying the action. His
replacement, General Winfield Scott, arrived
at New Echota on May 17, 1838 with 7000 men.
Early that summer General Scott and the United
States Army began the invasion of the Cherokee
In one of the saddest episodes
of our brief history, men, women, and children
were taken from their land, herded into makeshift
forts with minimal facilities and food, then
forced to march a thousand miles (Some made
part of the trip by boat in equally horrible
conditions). Under the generally indifferent
army commanders, human losses for the first
groups of Cherokee removed were extremely high.
John Ross made an urgent appeal to Scott, requesting
that the general let his people lead the tribe
west. General Scott agreed. Ross organized the
Cherokee into smaller groups and let them move
separately through the wilderness so they could
forage for food. Although the parties under
Ross left in early fall and arrived in Oklahoma
during the brutal winter of 1838- 39, he significantly
reduced the loss of life among his people. About
4000 Cherokee died as a result of the removal.
The route they traversed and the journey itself
became known as “The Trail of Tears” or, as
a direct translation from Cherokee, “The Trail
Where They Cried” (“Nunna daul Tsuny”).
Legend of the Cherokee Rose.
No better symbol exists of the
pain and suffering of the Trail Where They Cried
than the Cherokee Rose (pictured at top of page).
The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much
that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the
mother’s spirits and give them strength to care
for their children. From that day forward, a
beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever
a mother’s tear fell to the ground. The rose
is white, for the mother’s tears. It has a gold
center, for the gold taken from the Cherokee
lands, and seven leaves on each stem that represent
the seven Cherokee clans that made the journey.
To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along
the route of the “Trail of Tears”. The Cherokee
Rose is now the official flower of the State